Photo: iStock
Huawei is willing to share its 5G source code. Photo: iStock

The telecommunications industry, and 5G technology in particular, will play an increasingly important role in the entire industrial economy in the coming years. The implications of 5G go far beyond the internet of things to broader applications of big data transmission and artificial intelligence.

Whoever sets the standard for emerging 5G technology has the potential to extend surveillance and data mining on an unprecedented scale, Thomas Duesterberg warns at The Globalist this week. The way things are shaping up, it looks increasingly likely that it will be China that takes the lead, he argues, and the US and Europe had better work together to address related cybersecurity concerns.

If core 5G standards are adopted on the Chinese model, China will set the terms for how equipment manufacturers can license them. This would not only give Chinese firms the upper hand in equipment markets, but would increase danger to privacy and security of communications.

US and European industrial firms must be vigilant in maintaining a private sector-led model for standard setting in the telecoms sector, Duesterberg says. That appears all but impossible inside of China, where the lines between public and private sectors are blurred. Because of this, the US and Europe should cooperate in developing rules on foreign investment that are responsive to China’s state-directed and subsidized policies.

Duesterberg’s final recommendation is that the national security teams from NATO allies and Japan should investigate questions related to cybersecurity and the looming implementation of 5G networks.

Far from being the manifestation of protectionism, he says, taking these steps is needed to address China’s stated ambition for Chinese firms to control 70% or more of domestic consumption in 10 key industries. The failure to respond decisively will only reinforce the current trajectory towards greater protectionism.

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